Community Impact on the Arts

By Dana Parker

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Landing my dream job in my hometown as the school’s only art teacher I was presented with my yearly budget. My heart sank! How could I supply 600 students, grades K-8, with adequate materials for a full school year? It was impossible!

The first year was a struggle, and we trudged through it with mostly drawing and origami. This was not what I was expecting to teach. As my second year began, I knew I had to increase my art budget or somehow acquire materials for my students. I began to realize the importance of the community. I increased my communication and collaboration with the people around me and made meaningful connections along the way.


I began by talking with my close family and friends, getting ideas and suggestions for how to increase art supplies for the classroom. I also voiced my concerns to my colleagues and administrators. Then, I was presented with an opportunity to join a group of teachers from across the state, CTEPS (Classroom Teachers Enacting Positive Solutions), and I jumped on board. Our work consisted of a problem that we wanted to fix in our classroom, school, or district. Mine was obviously my budget! As I began my work, I realized that it wasn’t just my budget that was a concern but the involvement of the community that was most important.

Focusing more on the community, making connections, and asking for help through social media, is where I began. The local newspaper, The State Journal, donated stacks of old newspaper. Parents were sending in milk jugs, 2-liters, and recycle materials for sculpture projects. A local office supply company, Cardinal Work Solutions, donated several boxes of paper and cardboard, and some of my colleagues cleaned out their classroom closets and donated materials to the art room.

I also held a fundraiser, Art to Remember, to help raise money for art supplies. The fundraiser was a success! We raised more money than my actual art budget, and it was only for grades K-3! I plan to hold this fundraiser every year to help supplement the art budget.

The community has been more involved this year through donations, the fundraiser, and attending art shows. We have held an art show every quarter this year. The students were given a letter to present to their parents about the special event, and it was also posted on my teacher Facebook page, as well as, the school’s Facebook page. We have had a great turn out at each art show. There was also a donation jar at each show in case anyone wanted to donate to the arts.


The most meaningful connections the students have made with the community this year has been through collaborative projects. One class had the opportunity to collaborate with Pattie Stivender, from Bluegrass Green Source, where they created a 3-dimensional ‘litter free’ environment with clay. We were asked to participate in the annual Arbor Day art contest through Reforest Frankfort with the help of Becky Bishop. Another collaboration was when students created their ‘Reflections’ artwork. The Reflections program is a national program that is sponsored through the PTSA where students create individual artwork from a central theme.

The school was invited to showcase artwork at the local courthouse, the Franklin County Judicial Center, where I exhibited student artwork from grades K-8. A local bank, United Bank, invited the school to showcase artwork also. They held two different exhibitions, one for middle school students, and the other for K-5.

Students were also invited to a local art gallery, The Grand Gallery, free of charge. We were able to take a walking field trip to the gallery where students held a group discussion with the curators about the artwork. The gallery has invited us back to view future exhibits.

I also joined forces with my immediate school community. Collaborating with my colleagues on their core standards in the visual arts classroom has helped to reinforce those core standards through creation. Kindergarten is publishing a class book about adventures, and they created their illustrations in art class. First grade created their very own book with characters, settings, narration/speaking parts. Second grade studied a specific animal and created a mask of the animal. Third grade created robots and practiced finding the perimeter and area. The list goes on. Each community, big or small, makes an impact on the visual arts.


Just recently, I was presented with an opportunity for a grant through LexArts and the Kentucky Arts Council. The grant was a success! We had a guest artist come from Louisville, Tracy Pennington, to teach us how to make mosaics. This was not just an opportunity for the students, but also for making connections. Tracy said that she would come back and hold a workshop for parents, if they were interested.

Uniting with families, local artists, and the community has enriched experiences for the students. I held a school-wide art show, showcasing work from grades K-8. There were over 1000 pieces of artwork on display. The second grade students and I collaborated to make postcards invitations for the art show that we sent to 130 local businesses. I was honored to meet the KEA vice president, Eddie Campbell at the show.

It is very beneficial for the students and the school to have support from the community. The advantages of having a supportive community enables not only the school, but also the students, with resources and materials needed to be successful. Communication is crucial to ensure that the community is informed of events associated with the arts and needs of the students.

Keeping the lines of communication open with the community has enabled students with meaningful collaborative work with local businesses, parents, and even professional artists. Collaborating with other individuals fosters the importance of the arts and shows the students that art is much more than just an elective. It helps to create and encourage a future for the students through the arts. One hundred percent of parents surveyed, said that the community has been more involved with the visual arts program this year, and the majority of students surveyed agreed!

Students said they enjoyed this year much more than last year because they were able to create artwork with peers and have personal choice in their projects. Without donations and support from the community, students wouldn’t have had these experiences. Many students have increased their artistic skills and abilities through the various projects this year, and they have learned to love and appreciate the arts. Several eight grade students stated they will be taking art classes in high school in the fall.

I hope this journey is just the beginning of great things to come at Second Street School! I plan to continue my outreach to the community and hope to build a strong art department with their help. I am hopeful and excited to help construct a community-based art program for our town!

K-8 Visual Arts Teacher

Dana Parker has taught in the public school system for 13 years, the past 4 years as a visual arts teacher. This is her second year working for Frankfort Independent Schools as the K-8 visual arts teacher. She is a member of the Classroom Teachers Enacting Positive Solutions cohort 2017-2018. She earned two bachelors degrees in Studio Art and Art Education from Kentucky State University and a masters degree in Art Education from Georgetown College. She is currently working on her National Boards.